Change.org Acquires Versa Team to Boost Citizen-Government Engagement

Three years ago, I launched Versa, as ElectNext, with an audacious vision: to build a world in which every person is equipped to be an engaged, effective citizen.

Today, I am excited to announce that our team is joining Change.org.

We started Versa when it was becoming fully apparent just how powerful technology could be in transforming the way citizens and their representatives communicate with each other and work together.

At the same time, and in particular through the last two US presidential cycles, we watched that power concentrate in the hands of a few rather than the many, and usually to the benefit of political campaigns rather than good governance.  As Change.org CEO Ben Rattray says,  “technology was supposed to give us a better democracy. What we got was better ad targeting.”

Our two organizations are resolute in the belief that old models for citizen-representative engagement are broken. And we share a deep and unwavering passion to empower every person to create the change they want to see.

We are joining Change.org because of everything it has already achieved – 90 million users in 196 countries winning victories on the world’s most pressing issues almost every hour.

Responding to a desire from the decision makers on the receiving end of petitions, in the Fall of 2013 Change.org built a free-to-use tool that allowed decision makers to do three things:

  1. Track the petitions directed at them
  2. Respond to those petitions
  3. Engage in direct dialogue with their most passionate and engaged customers and constituents.

Since then, the response from decision makers worldwide has been incredible. Hundreds of the world’s biggest brands, and most powerful governments and elected officials, have interacted directly with stakeholders through more than 3,000 petitions. The examples are too long to list, but these are some of my favorites: Uber, LinkedIn, Senator Mitch McConnell,  UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Gap, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Ikea.

As we begin to experiment with new tools, our first step will be to understand what decision makers, as well as petition starters and signers, want and need to engage in the most productive dialogue for change.

We can’t wait to enable more businesses, and eventually more governments, to interact efficiently with their stakeholders where they already are: online. Closing the gulf people feel between themselves and those in power is the key to lasting positive dialogue and real change.

So now, to work!